Less than two weeks after the House returned from its "August recess," which stretched well into September, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced Thursday that the lower chamber would be leaving town once again. Not for a week, as originally planned. But for almost two months, so members can go home and campaign before Election Day. The House, like the Senate, will now return on Nov. 12.
It's easy to look at all of those vacation days and assume that this is the least productive Congress ever. By some measures, that's a difficult point to argue with. House Democrats were quick to jump on that bandwagon, presenting the early adjournment date as yet another sign of a "Do-Nothing" Congress and pinning the blame on Republican leadership.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other members of Democratic leadership even held a press conference Thursday afternoon hitting Republican members for their "rush out of Washington." Rank-and-file Democrats were quick to echo that sentiment as well.
Speaker Boehner just cancelled session. You might say he's (•_•) ( •_•) ⌐■-■ (⌐■_■) burning down the House: https://t.co/SvIu1dqpW3— Rep. Keith Ellison (@keithellison) September 18, 2014
But in truth, the House has been in session for 117 days so far this year. That's more days than the chamber worked in most recent election years. The real record-setter? The 109th Congress, which worked just 96 days before the 2006 election under then-Speaker Dennis Hastert. Even the 111th Congress, which was led by Pelosi herself, worked for just 109 days before the 2010 election.
It's certainly true that this wasn't always the norm. For election years from 2000 back to 1976, the earliest year for which the Library of Congress maintains data on session dates, the House worked for an average of 131 days before Election Day. The only year during that period in which the House worked fewer days than in 2014 was 1998. Even then, Boehner's House has Newt Gingrich's beat by only a single work day.
Despite their days worked, a comparison of this Congress's accomplishments to those in years past doesn't paint a very flattering picture. In the 113th Congress so far, members have enacted just 163 pieces of legislation into law, according to GovTrack. That's a little more than half of what the next least-productive Congress, the 112th, was able to do. Both are laughable figures compared to sessions in the '70s, '80s, and '90s, when the two chambers averaged 617 enacted laws per two-year Congress.
This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.